Wassup 2008

by Steve, October 30th, 2008

(Here’s a version with the original Budweiser ad at the beginning. Useful triva: John McCain’s wife Cindy is Chair of Hensley & Co, one of the largest Budweiser distributors in the world.)

The vet who did not vet

by Steve, October 30th, 2008

Lots more (not necessarily funny) on Andrew Sullivan’s blog at the Atlantic, where you can vote on your favorite. (My first runner up is “Whassup 2008”.)

Homer and me

by Steve, October 29th, 2008

I’ve been posting my Oregon Voters’ Guide for a while (I think this is my third edition), and since I know a little bit about search engine optimization (and since this site has half-decent Google juice), I’m usually in the top five results for a search like “2008 oregon voters guide” (It was number four today, just after two hits from the state and one from OregonLive.)

That’s right, BlueOregon, Loaded Orygun, Willamette Week, Tribune, Mercury, etc. etc. etc., the computers at Google think the endorsements of a left wing hockey nut from Portland are more important than yours.

But bogus puffery aside, I do think blog endorsements are important, and it’s great that some campaigns are starting to take notice and even tout them. They might as well, since they frequently list hundreds of individual supporters.

So kudos to Ben Westlund’s campaign staff (Westlund is the Democratic candidate for State Treasurer) for touting blog endorsements of his campaign, including mine.

Even if my endorsement consisted of a single sentence fragment: “State Treasurer: Ben Westlund”.

But there it is, about 2/3 down the page, in between International Union of Operating Engineers Local 701 and Homer Williams.

Give a middle-aged, mediocre defenseman the keys to a digital printing press, and look at the kind of company he starts to keep.

Rudy Casoni belts one for the Republicans

by Steve, October 28th, 2008

Fellow Iowa boy Toby Huss nails it:

(Toby and I were both theatre students at the University of Iowa back in the mid eighties. He’s obviously managed to do something with his larnin’. As if that weren’t a tenuous enough connection, he played Cotton Hill on King of the Hill, a character whose diction bears a startling resemblance to my grandmother-in-law.)

Opie, Andy, Richie and Fonz all say: Vote Obama!

by Steve, October 24th, 2008

Good stuff from Ron Howard, Andy Griffith and Henry Winkler:

See more Ron Howard videos at Funny or Die

Blogging, journalism and the new media landscape

by Steve, October 23rd, 2008

Anybody who knows a professional print journalist — and I know a few — knows that there is a growing sense of panic in the industry. Readership is in a death spiral, along with ad revenue. Owners of big city dailies — mostly large conglomerates now — are reacting by slashing newsroom staff. Our own local daily, The Oregonian, announced buyouts this summer for at least 100 full-time employees (a story I broke here, later picked up by Willamette Week and Oregon Media Insiders, and much later reported in The O itself).

In the throes of this existential crisis, it’s easy for journalists to blame the Internet. That’s where all the classified ads went (Craig’s List), and it’s also where readers, especially young readers, go for 24×7, up-to-the-minute news coverage and analysis. Who wants a pile of dead-tree paper on their porch with yesterday’s news?

Big city dailies like The O have been slow to adapt to the new media landscape (you may notice that I’m not linking to any Oregonian stories here, for the simple reason that they don’t provide online access to their archive), but even those papers with great Web sites are struggling. That’s because there is a revolutionary change afoot, well beyond the shift of medium from print to electronic.

This shift is every bit as important as the introduction of movable type was, and in much the same way. The difference is in scale.

Now, almost anybody in an industrialized nation can own or borrow a digital printing press. The implications for democracy are stunning, as evidenced by the sudden and lasting impact of Web-based organizations like MoveOn.org and the online fund raising and network-building efforts of insurgent Democratic candidate Howard Dean in 2004.

In the realm of information dissemination, bloggers have created an echo chamber for issues of concern to them and their candidates, keeping stories alive that would otherwise die in a 24-hour news cycle. But until recently, they mostly acted like aggregators, not reporters, simply repeating and amplifying news gleaned from traditional sources.

But the trend now is toward doing actual journalism, albeit with a well-defined point of view.

People who have faith in objectivity in journalism take umbrage at this, but objectivity is an artificial construct. Every story you read in every newspaper has a point of view, whether or not it is obvious. (Eric Alterman covered this issue in more depth in the New Yorker last March.)

Mainstream news gathering organizations have built-in biases, largely a result of their advertisers and their proximity to the powerful; their pretension to the contrary just makes things worse. Prime examples from Oregon’s biggest daily include sitting on the Bob Packwood and Neil Goldschmidt stories, certainly two of the biggest stories of modern Oregon political history.

Especially regarding issues of social justice, pretending to give “balanced” coverage is absurd. There is no point in giving equal time to proponents of injustice.

Which is why I find the emergence of ProPublica refreshing.

ProPublica is an independent, non-profit newsroom that will produce investigative journalism in the public interest. Our work will focus exclusively on truly important stories, stories with “moral force.” We will do this by producing journalism that shines a light on exploitation of the weak by the strong and on the failures of those with power to vindicate the trust placed in them.

ProPublica is setting a standard higher than current mainstream dailies, something it can afford to do with its private, independent funding. With its emergence, the death of traditional dailies is easier to take. After all, classified ads, obituaries, comics and lifestyle sections don’t do much to advance democracy.

Investigative journalism in the public interest does advance democracy, and it’s something the dailies long ago cut way back on.

But most blogging doesn’t rise to the level of ProPublica. Instead, at its best, the blogosphere offers the opportunity for citizen journalists to report on narrowly defined vertical topics — like a local school district, for example. While most bloggers in this realm, myself included, don’t do it full time and thus can’t do the in-depth reporting, they can offer a constant attention to issues that keep professional journalists focused.

As a citizen journalist in Portland, I’ve had productive relationships with professional journalists at the Portland Tribune and Willamette Week on issues concerning Portland Public Schools. We frequently feed off of each others’ stories, and together produce a body of work that has a clear point of view on one hand, and also a firm basis in factual reporting.

My relationship with reporters at The Oregonian, though, has been much more arm’s length. Their extreme caution in covering public schools belies a clear bias against challenging the status quo. So in their attempt to show no bias (i.e. by refusing to do significant investigation into actual, ongoing, documented injustice), they show a significant bias.

They also assure the continued demise of their newspaper.

At the end of the day, the new media landscape means that “what is news” is no longer determined by middle-aged, middle class white guys behind closed doors in a downtown office building. They’re no longer the only ones buying ink by the barrel, and they can no longer suppress news that goes against the interest of their friends and advertisers.

Now that digital ink is virtually free, Democracy is better served. Women in particular, who for ages have been treated like second-class citizens by the dailies (look at the resources poured into sports coverage), have flourished in the blogosphere. There’s something out there for everybody, which only makes the anemic efforts of the dead tree newspaper to appeal to women less relevant.

The big city daily represents an outmoded mindset, delivered in an environmentally destructive form. As long as organizations like ProPublica are around, along with the traditional journals of opinion like The Nation, alternative papers like Willamette Week, and a healthy blogosphere, I’m cautiously optimistic that the death of the big city daily is not necessarily a bad thing.

The professional journalist will not only survive, but become stronger and more respected, happily co-existing in a symbiotic relationship with the citizen journalist.

Note: The Society of Professional Journalists of Oregon and Southwest Washington is hosting Building a Better Journalist 2008 this weekend at the University of Oregon’s School of Journalism and Communication in Eugene, with an emphasis on the Internet. ProPublica managing editor Steve Engelberg is the featured speaker. I am also on the program (to the shock and surprise of some journalist friends), taking part in a panel discussion on blogging, along with Bike Portland‘s Jonathan Maus and Loaded Orygun‘s Mark Bunster, moderated by Willamette Week news editor Hank Stern.

The MHLW 2008 Oregon Voters’ Guide

by Steve, October 18th, 2008

Oregon ballots are in the mail and voting has begun. I’m honored to have just cast a historic vote for Barack Obama for president. Down ticket, things aren’t as clear-cut, especially on the ballot measures, so here’s my usual two cents worth on things, from the top.
Read the rest of this entry »

You can’t make this shit up

by Steve, October 17th, 2008

Mr. McCain brought his campaign to Florida on Friday, a state that he must win but where he has been losing ground to Mr. Obama in recent polls. Campaigning with him was Senator Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut, who tried to appeal to Cuban-Americans in the audience by trying to say “Joe the Plumber” in Spanish.

From the New York Times.

Live blogging the debate

by Steve, October 15th, 2008

I’ll be a special guest blogger over at Willamette Week for the presidential debate, starting at 5:45 PST.

Comments are taken, and published within the live blog stream at the discretion of the editor (not me), so come on over and join the fun.


by Steve, October 15th, 2008

Palin: NOPE!
From our good friends at Willamette Week, where you can download a high resolution, printable PDF of the above image.